Phillip Island: Andrew Pitt Racing preview

Pitt on a mission Yamaha-backed hotshot Andrew Pitt will set out to become the 11th Australian to win a Superbike World Championship race when round two is held at Phillip Island on April 1-3. The 29-year-old Isle of Man resident, ...

Pitt on a mission

Yamaha-backed hotshot Andrew Pitt will set out to become the 11th Australian to win a Superbike World Championship race when round two is held at Phillip Island on April 1-3.

The 29-year-old Isle of Man resident, emboldened by a better-than-expected performance in the opening round on his Yamaha Motor Italia-backed YZF-R1, and some dedicated set-up work since, believes he's on the cusp of a sizzling performance around the spectacular 4.448km Victorian circuit -- which holds special memories for him.

"I won my first world Supersport race at Phillip Island in 2002, which was one of those weekends where everything just clicked from start-to-finish," recalls Pitt. "It's certainly a different situation now, but more than anything I can't wait to ride the YZF-R1 on a 'real' circuit and see where we are at with the machine.

"For sure, I was surprised with my speed at round one in Qatar; we were just going there to get some points, but it turned out okay in the end."

The New South Welshman, who won the 2001 Supersport World Championship as a 25-year-old -- just two years after clinching the equivalent Aussie title -- sits on 20pts after round one, behind fellow championship rookie Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki GSX-R1000, 45), countryman and 1996 world champion Troy Corser (GSX-R1000, 41), Frenchman Regis Laconi (Ducati 999F05, 36) and another Australian, Chris Vermeulen (Honda CBR1000RR, 21).

While the round one result represented a triumph over adversity -- front tyre wear proved to be a constant bugbear -- of just as much credence to the university graduate was the stabilising factor of again being domiciled in a strong team -- on a machine that is capable of keeping him at the pointy end of the field.

Pitt, alongside fellow Australian Garry McCoy, inked a deal to spearhead Kawasaki's return to the MotoGP fold in 2003, in what proved to be a frustrating year on an uncompetitive bike. After just one season, Pitt and Kawasaki parted ways, and the Aussie spent most of 2004 in limbo -- some wildcard appearances on a Japanese-entered MotoGP bike were punctuated by a couple of guest rides for Yamaha in world Supersport.

That's all behind Pitt now, and he's determined to add to Yamaha's 34 wins in the resurgent production-based class -- the last which of came in 2000 when his current teammate Noriyuki Haga was the pilot.

"It's great to be on a bike that can win races, and it's good to know that I won't bust a gut and ride really well -- but still finish in 15th place," said Pitt, recalling the dark MotoGP days over the past two years. "I really enjoy working with the Italian team too; they do everything they can and have been working flat out since the whole project kicked off last October."

Pitt, alongside Haga, tested at Phillip Island in January, and came away from the outing with a best lap time of 1:33.9, which would have put him second on the grid in last year's Australian round.

"That was a good time, and we've improved the bike a lot since then," said Pitt. "Mostly it's been about trying to get the forks -- as used on last year's Yamaha MotoGP bike -- to work around the Pirelli control tyre.

"There's a little bit of compromise in all that, so we'll see how good the changes have been when I get out on the track on Friday.

"Undoubtedly, the pace will be hot on race day -- from all quarters. But that's what racing in a world championship is all about - pressure."

Since 1990, 27 world Superbike races have been held at Phillip Island, with Aussie riders (Peter Goddard, Rob Phillis, Kevin Magee, Corser, Anthony Gobert, Troy Bayliss and McCoy) winning 16 of them. Last year's two races were won by Laconi and McCoy respectively.

Thirty riders will saddle up for action this weekend, including the largest contingent of full-time Australian riders in the 18-year history of the SWC -- six. Practice and qualifying will be held on Friday and Saturday, followed by the two 22-lap races on Sunday.

Television coverage begins on Fox Sports 2 from 3.45pm on Saturday and 11.30am on Sunday.

-apr-

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Series World Superbike
Drivers Anthony Gobert , Garry McCoy , Troy Bayliss , Andrew Pitt , Noriyuki Haga , Peter Goddard , Troy Corser , Chris Vermeulen , Yukio Kagayama , Rob Phillis , Laconi Régis , Phillip Island